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Image / Beauty

IWD: 8 Irish women in the beauty business on what their biggest failure taught them

by Holly O'Neill
08th Mar 2020

According to Oprah, “failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” In failure, we learn to succeed. This International Women’s Day, Irish women in the beauty business share their biggest failures and what they learned.

Dawn Mayne, owner and founder, The Clean Beauty Edit

“The idea for The Clean Beauty Edit came very organically, as a result of my own personal health journey, and my gut feeling all along has been that this is the path that I am meant to be on. Looking back it feels like everything has flowed well and gone according to plan.

“There, of course, have been a lot of long, tough days and moments of self-doubt. I think my biggest failure so far has probably been doubting my own abilities when things have been hard and allowing that uncertainty to throw me off-course. Those moments of niggling self-doubt sometimes creep in when I am tired or when things haven’t gone according to plan that day.

“I try to see every little failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, and each challenge has taught me something that has enabled me to keep going and do better next time. I feel I’m constantly learning and growing and I love that about this business.

“When in doubt I look to my family, mentors and friends for support and guidance. The positive feedback that we receive daily from customers all over the world does wonders for the spirit and really affirms to me that we’re on the right track!”

I try to see every little failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Aimee Connolly, make-up artist and founder of Sculpted by Aimee Connolly and Sculpted The Academy

“I think when you run your own business you have constant mini failures because that’s just how it goes. we always have very high expectations of ourselves and our businesses — that’s probably why we keep pushing ourselves, so it’s not a bad thing either.

“For me, it always comes back to production, it’s single-handedly the most stressful part of the business, whether it’s delays, defaults or freight logistics. When I think of my biggest failure, I laugh because I probably have way bigger ones awaiting me down the line as the brand continues to grow but definitely one that caused me a lot of stress was a product default we had on a batch of items.

“It was a while ago now and thankfully it was a small quantity but, my god, the stress and urgency I felt at the time. We had done a pre-launch and there was a default on a random number of products so it wasn’t consistent, which meant it was harder to track.

“Either way, when you’re a small brand you don’t get second chances, so I jumped on it straight away and pulled all stock back from being sold and thankfully got it sent back to the factory for mechanical testing.

“It could have been a lot worse than it was, but it freaked me out, especially being a small brand in a massive pond and seriously competitive industry. I think it definitely taught me how to act under pressure.

“What I have realised in business is that issues will always arise but it is totally about how you deal with them. I think I’ve actually somewhat mastered that and, ironically, some of the best outcomes come from having had failures or issues along the way.”

Stop seeing the inevitable hiccups as failures, and start seeking the learning within them.

Sinéad Mooney, yoga and meditation teacher and trainer, Moons Yoga Studio Blackrock, corporate speaker and Lululemon ambassador

“It’s an interesting challenge to look at failures/bumps in the road. I see them as wonderful catalysts for learning and growth because isn’t that the only way to look at them! It comes down to choice, and the immense power we always have within our choices, once we choose with awareness and from a place of love.

“On one hand, you can allow yourself to spiral into a repeated loop of negative dialogue, ruminating on what went wrong or… you can perceive the wobbles as just necessary detours on your way to joy.

“Cultivating perspective, awareness and exercising the muscle of discernment is essential (hello yoga!) for us to stop seeing the inevitable hiccups as failures, and start seeking the learning within them.

“When I moved back from Melbourne (I had been away for six years!), even though I had lots of amazingly supportive media friends and colleagues in my old world, my attempt to burst onto the yoga scene here was… hard.

“The yoga studios here didn’t know me, students hadn’t taken my classes, I went from teaching packed classes of 50 yogis in the sunshine to knocking on doors in the rain. I chose to perceive my challenges simply as necessary obstacles on a path I knew I wanted.

“I rented halls, rallied my friends, evolved, expanded and now when I walk into my sunlit MYL Studio or watch my students moving in the sunshine on one of my yoga holidays – I genuinely beam with pride for the choices I made in challenging times. Mindful choices I know I’ll have to keep making so I keep practising, I keep listening inwards and I keep remembering the love that drives me.”

It was difficult to admit that I had made a hasty decision.

Eavanna Breen, Clinical Director, Akina Beauty & Laser Clinic

“In 2006 I decided to leave the job that I had for 13 years and go out on my own. The excitement I had for this new venture meant that I was eager to get up and running as soon as possible. I found a premises and fell in love with the space, I couldn’t wait to get going.

“When I signed that lease in 2006 the boom was in full swing and getting a premises was difficult, I was afraid if I didn’t snap it up it would be gone. In my haste to get going, I ended up signing a landlord-friendly lease that meant I was tied into the lease for 25 years.

“I ended up having to buy my way out of that lease as the premises wasn’t working for us. It was difficult to admit that I had made a hasty decision. Once I could accept that I did, I was able to move on and work at fixing the problem.

“It has taught me to take more time in making decisions, to be patient and not let my emotions take over. It also took away any notions that I had that I would always make the right decision.”

For me, my true business failures came from not being brave enough to try.

Margaret Mangan at Cloon Keen Atelier at 21a High Street in Galway city.

Photography by Suzy McCanny

Margaret Mangan, Director of Cloon Keen

“I love the famous quote from Samuel Beckett on failure: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ To me, it’s the axiom of not only entrepreneurship but of life. To succeed, we all must fail.

“To create one beautiful perfume, one hundred must be abandoned. Each perfume moving closer and closer to my idea of success. Every failure, in a way, redeems itself. For me, my true business failures came from not being brave enough to try.

“The greatest of these is my fear of public speaking. This fear stole so many possibilities throughout my life and only now am I beginning to understand its roots and find the courage to deal with it.

“Besides this, my biggest failures haven’t been drastic events rather they perniciously evolve through unlearned lessons and repeated mistakes. They’re the type of failures when I really want to kick myself!

“So often, they spring from self-doubt or bad habits. Improvement has come with time and more self-awareness that experience brings. The best way I’ve found of dealing with my own failures is to poke fun at myself and revel in them. The failure stories are always more interesting than the success ones — nobody wants to hear those!”

I had no business plan.

Jennifer Rock, CEO and founder of The Skin Nerd, Skingredients, Cleanse Off Mitt and Nerd Network

“When I launched the Cleanse Off Mitt the first time around, I had no notion of margins, demographics, channels, the marketplace… Just sheer passion and belief in the product itself.

“I had no business plan and didn’t sign any contracts with suppliers. Surprisingly, the Cleanse Off Mitt was a success regardless but the structure wasn’t there. The reality set in after, and although we’re still driven by skin results for clients and customers, I no longer run away from asking questions and learning about the more stereotypical commercial aspects.

“I think some feel guilty for talking about margin, negotiating deals and working towards the bottom line, but at the end of the day, we have humans to pay and they have mortgages. You can help people to feel better with a product you make and sell, and provide jobs (and fun) while doing it. What I’ve learned is to do it all with pride.”

Everything you ever learn is useful and learning is never limiting.

Sonia Deasy, co-founder of Pestle & Mortar Cosmetics

“In 2012, myself and my husband Padraic launched an online brand of specialist photography studio supplies – backdrops, tripods and the like. We launched with 350 unique SKU’s. That business didn’t fail in the catastrophic sense of the word but certainly the rewards reaped from it did not equate to the effort required to run it!

“There was an enormous amount of product on the site and we realised quickly that we had overshot our goals and capabilities by launching with 350 products.

“When we launched Pestle & Mortar, we launched with one product, our Pure Hyaluronic Serum. Everyone thought we were mad launching a brand with just a single product but we had learnt a valuable lesson: keep it simple.

“This philosophy informs everything we do at Pestle & Mortar to this day. We don’t overcomplicate anything which means that we can maintain high standards and customers understand what we offer.

“We also learnt another important lesson. We were experts in the photography industry and we were limiting ourselves to this space. The reality is that photography as a skill is transferable to any other industry. Everything you ever learn is useful and learning is never limiting.”

I didn’t realise I could work crazy hard, give my all… and lose.

Valérie Osawaru, biological scientist and founder of Valénto Skincare

“I believed I couldn’t. That was my biggest failure. Not so long ago, I interviewed for a role I had my heart set on and was more than capable of. The role was with a company I was already working at.

“Upon receiving feedback, I was rejected. Yes, the position was higher than my current role at the time. But I had worked very hard and it was evidently noticeable by myself and others.

“Everyone said, ‘Val, it’s definitely yours.’ I felt betrayed and devalued. For months after that, I kept thinking, ‘If I can’t get this role, how am I going to grow professionally?’ My mind was distraught.

“I didn’t realise I could work crazy hard, give my all… and lose. It’s important to have setbacks. Because that’s how you grow. That rejection grew me up. Yes, I cried about it but I still believed in me. So, I got an extremely better opportunity. Believing in myself has made me a Boss Lady.”

Read more: Sonia Deasy, Entrepreneur of the Year: ‘If you don’t learn from mistakes, you’ll never progress’

Read more: Leaving school at 15 didn’t hinder Oscar nominee and Businesswoman of the Year Nora Twomey

Read more: Jennifer Rock, Start-up of the Year: ‘I expect a lot from myself’

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